Tag Archives: Scrabble

Kinda, Sorta New Year’s Resolutions 2020

Starting two years ago, in 2018, I set specific goals for myself for the year. 2018 and 2019 went very well and I decided to keep at it this year. I’ve heard that few people keep their resolutions. I suspect it’s because, in part, many goals are general: lose weight, exercise more, drink less and so on or they are just plain daunting: run a marathon, get a graduate degree, backpack across Europe, and so on. My little resolutions are just that. Little. I look at areas of my life that need work and commit to very specific goals. I write them down and keep track on simple, loose-leaf paper. I guess if you had a proper computer (I don’t) you could make fancy files. For me, seeing the accomplishments written down – and adding entries – is part of the pleasure. People who like to make lists will probably understand this!

I have a lot of down-time in winter so it’s a perfect time to get started. Having specific plans in mind helps a lot – it keeps me from being aimless or frittering away my time. Also, this winter the local public library was closed for two months for renovations, and as I am very dependent on the library and its various resources, it meant I needed to occupy myself elsewhere.

I have re-booted my reading habit (which I’d let slip) with a goal of 20 books in both 2018 and 2019. I exceeded those so for 2020 the goal is 30 books. This month (January) I’ve read 7 books and started on an eighth. Knowing that the library would be closed, I planned in advance and trotted around to the little free libraries in my community to make sure I had reading material. There are five(!) “mini libraries” within walking distance of where I live which is terrific. (If you know me and would like to know where they are all are, feel free to ask.) Because I was using the little libraries, I re-read two excellent books, Elie Wiesel’s Night and Jeannette Wall’s The Glass Castle.

I watched a lot of dvds and series in 2019. A lot. I decided that I needed to cut back. I’ve watched just four DVDs and no series this month. I am effectively taking what has become a habit and turning it back into a treat. (When I was a kid, movies were a rare treat and that added to how special they were.) Also, as is the case with books, a lot of movies just aren’t all that; maybe they’re average or even mediocre. I’d rather watch less and enjoy them more, if that makes sense. The other week I happened to catch most of What Lies Beneath, a 2000 Harrison Ford/Michelle Pfeiffer film on TV and was so engaged that after I found it in the library system and watched the whole thing from the start (and without any scenes missing to add commercials). I don’t know how I missed this film when it first came out; it’s just my kind of movie. A psychological thriller that’s just scary enough (in the the Alfred Hitchcock vein). I see that RottenTomatoes.com doesn’t care for this film; oh well.

It’s been important to me this winter to make sure that I occupy myself by myself, without all the outside distractions and plays for my attention. I have kept my own counsel. It feels really good. I like being online but I want to be sure I can entertain myself without being online and without relying on “entertainment.” It is so easy to spend time online or to watch movies; it takes more effort on my part to do other activities.

Starting last year, yoga has become a more regular part of my life. My goal this year is to do the “sun salutation” (a series of poses that take all of five minutes) fifty times. I plan to do 20 longer sessions with the help of instructional DVDs. I found a new favorite, Mia Togo. I also like Tara Stiles. (I haven’t found a man with a yoga DVD that I like – so far). This month I’ve done the sun salutation four times and longer yoga sessions also four times. I never feel like yoga is time wasted.

I am always getting rid of things (trash, recycle, giveaway) but now I keep track and set goals. I got rid of a ton of stuff in 2019 and set a goal of getting rid of 50 things for 2020. I’ve already got 23 things on the list so I am sure I’ll exceed the goal. De-cluttering, culling, letting go of excess and things that no longer suit, feels fabulous. I like the idea that it “frees up space” in every sense of the phrase.

Last year I wanted to strengthen mind and body and I think I did that. I still want that goal. On New Year’s Day I went to a playground (no one else was there) and made sure I could still do a few “tricks” on the bars. My able assistant Gumby demonstrated as a stand-in for me in a post last year. I also made sure I could climb the pole at another playground. I don’t like climbing the pole but I think it’s good for me to know I can.

The skinny red pole I climb

In 2019 my blogging friend at Pistachios Conspiracy #63 mentioned trying to do a pull-up. We had a brief exchange about attempting that in 2019. She accomplished it but I didn’t really try but once (and I hadn’t made it a real goal). She mentioned jumping up to do it so on New Year’s Day I tried that. Three times in a row I jumped up and tried to reach the bar but it just wasn’t happening. In the middle of the night I woke up and several body parts were hurting that hadn’t been before! I think a) when I try I should try only once per “session” and b) I’ll call it a success if I can touch my chin to the bar. (In my New Year’s attempts I realized, as I was straining mightily, that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I could call a successful pull-up.) My goal is eight attempts. Admittedly, I haven’t tried again since the New Year’s day attempt but perhaps this weekend….

Blogger Don’t Curse the Nurse recently mentioned (in lieu of doing a pull-up) that she’d accomplished a “three-minute plank.” I knew what planks were but hadn’t heard of a three-minute one. This sounded like a good challenge so I immediately tried it. I did do a three minute plank but I did stick my butt up in the air briefly three times to alter the position. It is hard! The fronts of my shoulder sockets were feeling it immediately; this isn’t a body part I even think about but I did during the three minute plank. Yowee.

I went back and forth about mentioning this next goal because I wondered if I should just do it and keep quiet about it. Anyway, it’s a goal of doing “good deeds.” I routinely try to do good things in my life but I thought that if I made a specific goal (of 20) I’d be more conscious of the idea in general. (I have heard of goals where people do good deeds that sound kind of forced/disingenuous to me and I don’t want to do that; I want it to be genuine and freely done.) The idea is that I’ll do something good for someone else – or something beneficial to multiple people – without any expectation of a reward of any kind. It doesn’t have to be huge but it has to be more than holding a door for someone or picking up a piece of trash. It can’t be routine things I do all the time. I want to make a little effort. Maybe I already do 20 such things (or more) a year but I absolutely have no idea so far as a number. And I’ve said this several times on the blog but I strongly maintain that if you are too taxed yourself (from work, or a problem, or stress, or depression or grief or any of the kinds of things that sap strength and motivation) you typically don’t have a lot of extra to give. I am feeling less taxed in my life and feel I have a bit more to offer. That’s the impetus behind this goal.

I am fairly new to Scrabble but I love it. I was playing with some people but not enjoying it that much (too much arguing) so I practice by playing against myself. It’s definitely good for me. It makes me think. Last summer I got a great deal from Amazon and bought a board. I have a goal of playing (against myself) ten times this year. I’ve already done a few sessions so that’s an easy goal. In an effort to find someone to play against, I put a notice on a local bulletin board earlier in the month. However, because I don’t entirely trust such things, I asked for someone who was “reasonably normal” and “reasonably good-natured” for fun, competitive games. Nobody responded. I thought I’d shake at least somebody out of the trees but no! I may try another ad but frankly, I am wary of who it might attract (hence the requests for normalcy and good nature).

My year is off to a really good start with this month. I want to mention one other thing that happened (this month) that is not goal-related but deserves a mention. Somehow I won a $5 Amazon gift card from blogger Becky. I didn’t know I was in the running so that was a lovely surprise!

About them 2019 resolutions…

Okay, so I did all right. I won’t be crossing quite everything off the lists but I’m basically satisfied. In both 2018 and 2019 I made highly specific “kinda, sorta resolutions” tailored to me. It’s worked out well.
I read 33 books. The goal was 20. I did most of my reading in the early part of the year. I put check marks by 13 of them, indicating which ones I really appreciated.  I can’t read the way I used to; it takes more to hold my attention, more to get me to sit in a spot for hours with a book. Because of that, six of my 33 were books I’d read in years past and wanted to read again. Sometimes I just need a sure thing. I have little patience these days for trying to get into a book, trying to relate to characters, or trying to care about the subject matter. I get restless. And I KNOW there are books – like all things – which can hold me; it’s a matter of finding them.

A year ago I bought a yoga mat and a DVD player for the TV in the living room, the only place (other than outside!) where I have space for doing yoga. As with the reading, most of my yoga was done earlier in the year. I am very active outdoors most of the year and didn’t need more exercise of any stripe. Because I hadn’t totally factored that in I fell somewhat short of my intentions. I’ve done the five-minute “sun salutation” 38 of 50 planned times and the 30-minutes of yoga just half of 25 planned times. That said, when I DID do yoga it was usually in 40-45 minute increments per the instructional DVDs.

I like yoga. I don’t worry much about fussy breathing or learning all the poses’ names, or anything that might daunt, bore, or intimidate me. To me, yoga is exercise. Exercise focused on strength, balance, and stretch. It’ll make your body move in ways it wouldn’t in the normal course of a day which is an especially good idea for anyone who is aging. Otherwise you end up like the tin man!😯 I want to be strong, agile, and spry as long as possible. The way I live is dependent on it at many levels. I will not go down easily. I know I’ll be doing yoga over the winter.

I did ZIPPO with learning Italian from cds. That fell off the map in short order because I wasn’t enjoying it and I wasn’t learning Italian. All I can say is I recently heard “piazza” somewhere or other and knew it meant plaza.😐 I think I ‘d like to learn – or try to learn – key phrases and words at least as a starting-off point rather than attempt the language itself. That, or I need different cds. I felt inept very quickly with the set I was using. Other than English, I have never felt I had an aptitude for languages and my opinion after this year hasn’t changed a whit.

Thai cooking wasn’t a success either. Thai cooking, it seems, requires a lot of ingredients I don’t typically have and more trouble than I wanted to invest. I did attempt spring rolls because I love them when I have them out but mine, which I decided to bake since I cook NOTHING in pots of oil, were okay, not great.  Instead, I continued to make this Thai-inspired cole slaw. If I can find more recipes like it, I’d definitely try them. Lime, peanuts, cilantro, be still my heart!

I watched a lot of DVDs, both movies and series. I had wanted an idea of the number since I’d never kept track. The thing I realized is that as with books, I need the right movies or series to hold me. I ADORE movies, as I adore books and music. But a lot of each is just average, nothing special, not to me. I want the gems, the ones I get excited about, the ones that thrill me, and make me sit back in awe of someone else’s brilliance and accomplishment. How did they do that?! That’s the feeling I want. That’s why I read, watch movies/series, and listen to music.  I want to have that O-MI-GOD feeling. Am I demanding? Do I expect too much? Yeah, well maybe. But once you’ve had that feeling, it’s Continue reading

Scrabble on my mind

I started playing Scrabble with a group of people a few months ago. This is unusual on a couple fronts. I’m not a big joiner and as a rule not a fan of groups (and my feelings haven’t changed) but I must say as a newcomer to the game itself, I love it! I should have started playing years – decades – ago. At least I’ve started now; that’s what I’m telling myself. The game plays to my strengths with one caveat thus far: I lack speed. I’m much better than when I started but still feel the absence of speed – being able to quickly see potential, high-point words from a bunch of letters – puts me at a disadvantage. Also, because I can’t read upside down, when I’m playing against 3 or 4 people I’m lost until the board is facing me. To be fair, no one else I’m playing against has only recently learned the game. And I have won games, more than once.

To practice and get the hang of things, I made a makeshift game (don’t laugh) to play against myself since I didn’t initially know whether it was worth buying one. Playing against myself (I’m evenly matched) has absolutely improved my skills. What I’ve done is occasionally keep score by totalling “both sides” points all together. In October my total was around 500 to 570 but I’ve surpassed 600 points several times recently (676 once!).

If you’re not familiar with Scrabble, the basic idea is you get seven letter tiles and try to make a word with them on a board. If you use all seven letters on one turn, you earn a bonus 50 points. Last week, for the first time, when playing a solitary game, I got my first 50-point bonus. I was so excited I yippied!😊 It was a definite breakthrough in my mind’s processing. (The word was parlors.)

In a subsequent solitary game, I used all seven letters two times. Naturally I took a picture to show you. The words were aliases and frighten. (There are 100 letter tiles including two “blanks” – that can be any letter you want – one of which I used in “frighten”.)


My homemade “board” (don’t tell Hasbro® – I plan to get a real one!)

The next day I again used all seven tiles, shown here with misheard. Equines doesn’t count because I put down “equine” on one turn and added an “s” on another.

A couple weeks ago I found a Scrabble dictionary (yes, they have their own) tossed out by the road with a bunch of other books. It felt like a sign. I am so smitten with Scrabble and playing it – with people or alone – is good for me. I’m on a self-propelled mission over the last year or so to sharpen up my mind. Scrabble makes me think and I get a thrill from coming up with words and improving my game. I have a love affair with words and I’m intensely courting them again.

The End of my 2018 New Year’s “resolutions”

I wrapped up my kinda-sorta-new-years-resolutions at the end of October, two months before year’s end. My goals weren’t overly ambitious but simple and to-the-point: 1) to read twenty books 2) to make ten new recipes and 3) to make ten visits to the local lake/park. As of now, I’ve read thirty books this year and went past the ten new recipes as well.

During the year I updated my progress in March and again in August. To keep myself on track, I simply wrote down the three goals and the associated number on loose-leaf paper and whenever I did one of the goals, I wrote in on the list. Writing it down was key – I looked forward to adding new entries and seeing my progress.

I have reclaimed myself as a reader. I’ve said it before but the internet – and how its use affects the brain – had a large part in diminishing my reading. I hadn’t realized how bad it had become but I don’t know when I last read twenty plus books in a year. I had to reclaim my ability to truly focus and pay attention. See, what I am thinking now is that, on one hand there is Entertainment and Distraction while on the other there is Learning and Challenging. I had slowly slid further into the former category as years passed.

To be fair, there are things in life which can take away from any desire to spend a lot of time on learning and challenging one’s self. Obligations, problems, illnesses, depression, and grief are but a few obstacles. When you’re in a place where – for whatever reason(s) – just keeping your head above water is taxing, setting and accomplishing new goals and challenges sounds like an absurd prospect.

So, while I’m not delighted with myself that I wasn’t challenging my mind or learning enough for some time, I do know that along the way, I wasn’t always in the right state to be intellectually ambitious either.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m a bit fan of Entertainment and Distraction! I just think you have to balance them with more enriching pastimes.

I think I got burnt out on learning in college and allowed myself to coast along for some time, figuring I’d done enough and needed a break. But, uh, college was decades ago!

Most of the books I read this year were nonfiction, but not all. One of the year’s best finds was The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, a novel I saw recommended in Esquire magazine. It’s a beautifully written book, a great read for anyone who’s ever had a friend or a close connection to an animal. I am grateful to have found and read it.

I’m excited by reading, the way I used to be (before the internet). I’ve also started reading the aforementioned Esquire magazine again more faithfully. I subscribed for several years but had let the subscription go several years back; I thought the magazine was trying to become more like Maxim (to draw and keep younger male readers) which is not something I read. There was only so much I wanted to know about men’s suits too. Not sure if I want to subscribe now but I’m definitely interested in staying an Esquire reader.

The reading was the HUGE thing this year but committing to making new recipes was beneficial too. Sometimes I tend to fall into making the same things because I like a sure thing when it comes to FOOD. I like knowing that I will enjoy my meal. Trying new recipes takes away that guarantee. That being said, I found new recipes to love, like Easy Walnut, Date and Coconut Treats and Grandma’s Pizza. Writing them down on my Resolutions list keeps me from forgetting about them. In fact, I had kind of forgotten about the walnut/date/coconut treats (which I first made last January) but seeing them on my list jogged my memory – why haven’t I been making them?!

Oddly enough, getting myself to visit the local lake park ten times, a really easy resolution, took more doing. Several months went by when I didn’t go at all (although I was busier with other things in that time) and the assault on a local woman on Labor Day weekend affected my feelings about visiting there. I never heard about any arrest so I assume there wasn’t one. And it isn’t as if I always felt safe there before; I always feel I have to stay alert which kind of detracts from the point of communing with nature.

I see now that my three arenas of resolutions covered several crucial aspects of life: learning, eating, and being in nature. I’m glad I had these different areas and not just one of them. It was fun to do this, fun to see the entries adding up. Finishing up the last of them two months early and surpassing two of them is better than I could have hoped to accomplish. There’s no question my Kinda-Sorta New Year’s resolutions worked out very well. I’m better for them and feel I’ve definitely jump-started myself. Now I’m thinking about what I might like to set out to do in 2019.